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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 13:54, June 04, 2006
US-Iran direct dialogue worth trying
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The US State Department convened an emergent news conference on Wednesday. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attended the conference and made a statement that as long as Iran suspends the uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities, the United States is prepared to work together with the EU for face-to-face negotiations with Iran to resolve the nuclear issue. Subsequently, President Bush expressed the same comments while meeting reporters. Before this, the United States always refused to have direct negotiations with Iran. This latest position of the US government has been regarded as a turning point on the Iranian nuclear issue.

There are several points in Bush and Rice's speech that are noteworthy: First, both emphasized that the United States will not only participate in the negotiations, but will play a leading role in the process; Second, both have repeatedly stressed the importance of a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue; Third, the United States agreed upon the "main content of the package incentives", a package proposal to be discussed by the European Union later in Vienna, that a series of incentives will be available to Iran once it halts uranium enrichment activities. Rice demanded Iran make a choice: either stop uranium enrichment, thereby accessing to a series of benefits; or remain unrepentant, therefore paying for "a high price."

Analysts hold that the United States changed its rigid position as a result of the following factors: Firstly, the US threat of force becomes weaker. The Iraq war has become a quagmire for President Bush for his domestic public support rate has decreased to a new record low of 31%. Even its closest ally Tony Blair does not agree to use force to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue; Secondly, as long as there is a possibility to find diplomatic solution to the issue, the US can hardly win support from Russia and China to enforce UN Security Council sanctions; Thirdly, the international community has a strong demand of the US for a direct involvement in the negotiations. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has recently advised President Bush to participate in direct negotiations. And from within his Republican Party, quite a few members have also given such a call.

However, the most important point is that the US government has its own considerations. Since Russia and China do not agree to impose sanctions and prefer diplomatic solution and its European allies also count on a peaceful solution, it might worth a try. If Iran agrees to stop uranium enrichment activities, it couldn't be better; if it still refuses to compromise, Iran will become the one to be blamed. To impose sanctions then will not be too late. To this end, Rice specially stressed at the press briefing, "our friends, our partners, and ourselves are all aware of the importance of this step. Iran must understand this importance to make a clear choice. I think we have reached a good understanding with our partners." This implies that different parties may have some tacit consensus: if this doesn't work, then carry out sanctions.

Since the United States established a precondition for the negotiation that Iran must first suspend uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities, people do not have too much optimism in the new proposal. The precondition is very likely to become the first hurdle before the talks begin. Iranian Foreign Minister Mano Shaher Muttaqi demonstrated this point in his speech on Thursday.

Despite the different intention and unforeseeable prospects, dialogue is always better than confrontation and negotiation is always more preferable than threat. If both the United States and Iran show their sincerity, they can possibly build up the basis for dialogue: the United States said it will absolutely not allow Iran to possess nuclear weapons and Iran stated that it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons; Iran persisted in its possessing right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and the United States also recognized that the Iranian people have the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

By People's Daily Online

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